Depression and Other Mental Illnesses Respond to Lifestyle Diet and Nutrient Therapy

© Rosalie Moscoe:

James Greenblatt, MD, speaking at the 41st Annual Orthomolecular Medicine Today Conference, presented on Inflammation and Neuropsychiatric Illness: Treatment and Testing Protocols.  Dr. Greenblatt quoted statistics outlining depression as one of the most serious and costly health problems in the world today: Approximately 15% of adults will experience severe depressed mood during their lifetime and approximately 15% of these will eventually commit suicide.

Do Depressed People Respond to Psychopharmacologic Treatment?  The standard measure of treatment response is about 50% who will experience improvement of the primary symptoms of depression. Two thirds of patients treated for depression continue to have residual symptoms; 20 – 40% do not show substantial clinical improvement.

While it is becoming more evident that inflammation is associated with all major chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, asthma, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, depression is not usually associated with inflammation.  According to Greenblatt, it should be on the list.  Inflammatory cytokines can cause symptoms of depression by causing changes in the neurotransmitters associated with mood – serotonin and its precursor, tryptophan.

Sources of Inflammation That Contribute to Depression:

SAD (Standard American Diet) – high in sugar, processed foods, and trans fats

Environmental toxins

Low grade infections (Lyme disease)

Food and environmental allergies

Dysbiosis and digestive problems

Sedentary lifestyle, sleep deprivation and nutritional deficiencies

Chronic stressors that keep the sympathetic nervous system working overtime

Greenblatt maintains that blood tests for CRP (C-reactive protein), screening for infectious and inflammatory diseases should be conducted for those with depression.  High levels of this marker (scores over 3) increase the incidence of depression, four-fold.  Other tests for vitamin deficiencies should also be considered such as B12, folic acid and Vitamin D – as deficiencies of each of these nutrients have been shown to cause depressed symptoms.  Other important deficiencies and imbalances implicated in depression include: iron (ferritin levels) and thyroid.[1]

Hypoglycemia, (low blood sugar) is another condition that needs addressing.  It is a forerunner to diabetes and is mostly due to the intake of excess sugar in the diet.  Hypoglycemia can cause blood sugar swings that can cause or worsen anxiety or depression.  Due to the high rates of depression in the general population, it certainly makes sense to request these tests.  The results could uncover the missing link in the treatment of mental illnesses – for better outcomes.

Moscoe affirms that the time is now for doctors and psychiatrists to not only write a prescription for a neuroleptic drug, but also to recommend nutritional consulting plus an order for blood tests for CRP, nutrient deficiencies, iron and thyroid status.

What Else Can Help Ease Depression and Other Mental Illnesses?  Moscoe Recommends the Following:

Regular exercise has been shown to not only reduce inflammation but also to improve symptoms of major depression – (source: Reuters)

Omega-3 fatty acids – raises DHA which enhances mood (depression in returning veterans from Iraq correlated with low levels of DHA in their blood[2])

Magnesium decreases cortisol levels (high levels of cortisol are a known cause of sleep disruption.) “Magnesium in blood tests does not tell the whole story. Some symptoms to indicate magnesium deficiency include: sleeplessness, anxiety, leg cramps and foot cramps, particularly at night when magnesium need is highest.” – Aileen Burford-Mason, PhD Author of Eat Well Age Better.

Low doses of the metallic element Lithium discovered in 1818, has shown great promise in the treatment of mental illness. In 1949, Australian psychiatrist John Cade found that it was useful for treating elation or mania (although it is toxic in high doses) – (source: Greenblatt, M.D.)

Vitamin B12 and folic acid[3]  – as well as Vitamin D[4],[5] give patients a boost and clearly reduces symptoms and likely underlying causes of many psychiatric disorders.

Zinc, nicknamed “The New Anti-Depressant”, has an uplifting effect as it increases serotonin uptake.[6]

Moscoe states that; “It is worth noting that the March 29, 2012 Canadian federal budget included $5.2 million to support depression research and intervention network of mental health professionals.  I hope long overdue lifestyle and critical nutritional information will be incorporated into the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s future goals of promoting mental health, preventing mental illness and aiding recovery. Let’s empower people who suffer mental illnesses with lifestyle and nutritional knowledge and tools, so they can improve and thrive. But most of all, let’s give them HOPE rather than leave them in despair”.


[1] Bauer M. London ED, Silverman DH, et al: Thyroid, brain and mood modulation in affective disorder Pharmacopsychiatry, 2003; 36 Supp 3: 5215-5221

[2] J. Clinic Psychiatry, 2011. The opposing effects of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids. Schmitz. G. Ecker, J. Progress in Lipid Research, 2008, 47(2); 147-55

[3] Cobalamin Deficiency¸ Methylation and Neurological Disorders by G.E. Schuitemaker, M.D. and A.J. Hoogland, The Netherlands), JOM, Vol 11, No. 4, 1996

[4] Vitamin D supplementation: what’s known, what to do, and what’s needed. Pharmacotherapy. 2012 Apr;32(4):354-82. doi: 10.1002/phar.1037.

[5] Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia.Clin Rheumatol. 2007 Apr;26(4):551-4. Epub 2006 Jul 19.

[6] Cathy W. Levenson, PhD, Nutrition Reviews, Vol 11, No. 6, 694-700

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